15:54 GMT +318 July 2018
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    Iceland's Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson arrives at the Presidential residence in Bessastadir, Iceland September 16, 2017

    How 'Good Heart' and 'Rich Wife' Felled Two Consecutive Icelandic Gov'ts

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    The Nordic nation of Iceland is facing yet another early parliamentary election, the second one in only two years. Despite the fact that allegations against Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson and his predecessor involve a pardon for child sex abuse and some hidden offshore accounts, an Icelandic professor sees no crime in either of the cases.

    In an interview with Sputnik, Hannes Gissurarson, a professor of political science at the University of Iceland, argued that Iceland's Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson's call for an early parliamentary election following "unfounded" allegations that his party had covered up a child sex abuse scandal was a result of a mere misunderstanding. Gissurarson also argued that Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, who resigned in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal, never did anything wrong apart from having a rich wife.

    Last week, Bright Future, a member of Iceland's ruling coalition, announced its withdrawal from the government, due to Bjarni Benediktsson's alleged attempts to cover up the fact that his father helped a convicted pedophile to get his honor restored.

    Gissurarson explained that the formal Icelandic procedure of "restoring one's honor," which is rooted in a Danish law from 1940, allows people with serious convictions to apply for certain jobs without having their criminal record erased. Despite its quaint and somewhat misleading name, the procedure only implies a restoration of one's civil rights, such as the right to vote, based on a recommendation from a friend.

    "Because of its name, many critics thought that people were condoning their past crimes. This is not at all so. It is a process, in which one gets integrated back into society," Hannes Gissurarson told Sputnik, explaining that pedophiles had the same rights to this procedure as other criminals, according to Icelandic law.

    Gissurarson clarified that this was not at all unusual in Iceland to get such a recommendation from a former colleague, as was the case that led to Bjarni Benediktsson's government's downfall.

    "What happened was that Benediktsson's father, who was known for his good heart, recommended that this former criminal [a pedophile] who had served his sentence would have his honor restored," Gissurarson argued, explaining that the sensitivity of these issues was the reason for the confidentiality.

    The fall of the Icelandic government, which took two months to negotiate and form, comes just over a year after former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was forced to resign after the publication of the Panama Papers which revealed his family had allegedly attempted to hide millions in offshore accounts.

    "What happened in the case of Gunnlaugsson was that his wife was a wealthy woman, who has inherited a lot from her father who was a prominent figure in Iceland. She kept her money on an offshore account, like many people do in the United Kingdom on the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey," Gissurarson said. "There was an outcry on Iceland, but the only crime he committed was having a wealthy wife," he added.

    Gissurarson summed up the interview by arguing that Iceland was now enjoying unprecedented prosperity coming at the top of various ratings of well-being.

    "We have a booming tourist industry, a profitable fisheries sector, great human capital and ample energy resources. And we're only 330,000 people, so we can share those things," Gissurarson said, calling this development "miracle-like" and adding that any radical change was unlikely given how good things are at present.

    Earlier, Icelandic President Guðni Jóhannesson accepted Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson's request to dissolve parliament and hold an election on October 28. The outgoing government, which only came to power in January, will be the shortest in Iceland's history.

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    Tags:
    Bright Future Party, Gudni Johannesson, Bjarni Benediktsson, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, Scandinavia, Iceland
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